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Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band

The Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band became my family, my training ground, and a true spiritual University where I learned so much about music and life! Together we have toured the world from Lebanon to Japan, eating good food, sharing laughter and stories and of course, sharing musical ideas and practicing together. And the beat still goes on. We are touring, recording ,performing and playing wonderful, groundbreaking charts written by some of the greatest arrangers in Jazz. Stay tuned for news of concerts and recordings by this amazing ensemble. I was so fortunate to have some of the greatest arrangers in Jazz history write charts expressly for me. These charts became part of my book and of the Dizzy All Stars Big Band's repertoire. Master Jimmy Heath, whose songs I have always adored and recorded in a 2015 album with the Heath Brothers, wrote a full big band chart on his song 'The Thumper'(for which I wrote a lyric). Another amazing original by Jimmy Heath, the song 'Moody's Groove' (with a lyric by Jimmy), has become one of the favorite vocal features for big band, and he also created an incredible, gorgeous arrangement of Tadd Dameron's 'If You Could See Me Now', completed with the rarely heard verse. In the year 2004, the NDR Jazz Orchestra from Hamburg, Germany, commissioned Master Slide Hampton a program of vocal arrangements for my broadcast performance dedicated to the two Giants who most inspired my path in music and life: my mentor Benny Carter, and Dizzy Gillespie.

L to R: John Lee, Clark Terry, Roberta and James Moody

“Oh man, they are so good it's just ridiculous”

(Aretha Franklin)

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Slide Hampton and Roberta

Slide and I sketched out the road map for a number of charts to be recorded for German radio, and performed at Germany's Jazz Baltica Festival. On this occasion, Master Hampton created some of the most astounding vocal charts that I have ever heard  to this day: 'Round Midnight' (with an orchestral 'shout' ensemble quoting Dizzy Gillespie's 'I Waited For You' and the rarely heard JonHendricks lyric to the theme- with a famous 'coda' section at the end), 'Stardust' (with an initial 'a cappella' vocal  section answered to by the band-an arranging device that has hardly been heard before in big band vocal writing), a breakneck-speed 'Lover, Come Back To Me' with a stop-time  vocal improvisation chorus, a medley between Benny Carter's masterpieces 'People Time' and 'When Lights Are Low',and more. When Slide Hampton became the conductor and artistic director for the Dizzy All Star Big Band, these arrangements became a steady  part of the band's repertoire, and we  have been performing them ever since. These beautiful charts are always fresh, new and modern: a vehicle for improvising and for constant expansion. And new repertoire is constantly added to the Band's book.

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